Extension educator is lead author in prestigious journal article

Dr. Wendy Powers, director of the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute, and I received an email from Douglas A. Landis, professor and interim chairperson in the Michigan State University Department of Entomology. The email called attention to MSU Extension educator Ben Werling as the lead author on a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The article, “Perennial Grasslands Enhance Biodiversity and Multiple Ecosystem Services in Bioenergy Landscapes,” related to postdoctorate work Ben led in Dr. Landis’ lab working on a Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) project. Ben and Dr. Landis led a large group of collaborators (the GLBRC Biodiversity Team) studying the impacts of bioenergy cropping systems on biodiversity and ecosystem services. This synthetic work combines information on plant, insect, microbe and bird biodiversity and the services that flow from their presence (biomass, pest suppression, pollination, GHG mitigation, and bird watching opportunities) in bioenergy crops. It’s hoped that this information further informs policy and the roll-out of the most sustainable systems.

Dr. Landis said, “Ben led a 1.5 yearlong effort to synthesize the data, conduct the analyses and write the paper. My guess is that he is too humble to have mentioned this, so I just wanted to let you know what a fine job he has done!”

Papers published in the PNAS are remarkable achievements, and require a recommendation by a National Academy of Sciences member to be accepted. That distinction is reserved for particularly significant findings. It is especially rare for a paper in PNAS to be authored by an Extension educator.

Others authors on the paper who receive support from MSU Extension include Rufus Isaacs and Julianna Wilson, both in the Department of Entomology, and Katherine Gross, director of the Kellogg Biological Station.

Congratulations to Ben and the rest of the team for this synthetic work and the recognition they have received!

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